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Florida Church Blessed with M2Ds for Christmas

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"What really sold it for me personally was how transparent everything was. The sounds coming off the stage didn't seem to be amplified. It's so crystal clear that you can be fooled into thinking there's no sound system – except it's too loud for there not to be one."

- David Fitzgerald,
Director of Media Ministries, First Baptist Church

Santa arrived a few months early at the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, bringing in his sack a new Meyer Sound M2D compact curvilinear array system along with eight tiny M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array cabinets for choir monitoring and front fills. The system arrived just in time to provide glorious sound for the church's 20th annual Christmas Pageant, a dauntingly large-scale production – justly famed throughout South Florida – that involves multiple stage sets, exquisite costuming, and more than 600 musicians and performers drawn from the large and multi-talented congregation.

According to David Fitzgerald, director of media ministries for the church, the new system was largely responsible for dramatic improvements in the pageant's sound. "It's been incredible with the M2Ds," he says. "The evenness of coverage is something that we've never heard before, and the clarity is beyond anything we could achieve with the rental systems we had to bring in for previous years."

The costly rental rigs had to be brought in for the pageant primarily because the ageing, permanently installed reinforcement system simply wasn't up to the rigorous demands of the event. Though the old single-cluster system was still used for worship services during the other 11 months of the year, it was gradually falling behind as the church augmented traditional services with contemporary worship styles that required higher SPLs, increased dynamic range, and substantially better wide-bandwidth coverage of the 2700-seat worship space.

Fitzgerald and his crew had been lobbying in favor of a new system for years, but it wasn't until late 2003 that it literally became "curtains" for the old cluster. The church had ordered a new custom Austrian curtain to draw across the stage front during portions of the pageant, and the proposed curtain position would block sound from the old cluster. No question, it was time for a new system.

Fitzgerald and other concerned church staff members quickly arranged to audition systems from six different manufacturers, either in the church auditorium or as existing installations in other facilities. As part of the process, technical consultant David Imber contacted Rick Scharmann of Pro Sound in Miami, who in turn initiated a proposal based on Meyer Sound M2D arrays. CAD drawings of the church were sent to Greg Linhares of Meyer Sound Design Services, who responded with Meyer Sound MAPP Online plots detailing how the system would perform in the room.

"When I saw the MAPP plots it almost looked like the church had been designed around the speaker coverage," comments Scharmann. "It was that kind of exact fit. I suspected that maybe they had touched it up to look good, but Greg assured me that it was for real."

Fitzgerald and his evaluation team were similarly impressed with the colorful plots, but they still wanted to hear living proof. Scharmann arranged for a full M2D demo system to be brought in for an audition, and the audible results conformed to the predictions. "What really sold it for me personally was how transparent everything was," recalls Fitzgerald. "The sounds coming off the stage didn't seem to be amplified. It's so crystal clear that you can be fooled into thinking there's no sound system – except it's too loud for there not to be one." When full evaluation of all competing systems was complete, the church's decision was unanimous in favor of the M2Ds.

Thanks to the precision of MAPP Online, the installed M2Ds (12 per side) evenly cover all seats except for some in the front rows, which receive their sound from a pair of smaller M1D fill speakers. Six more M1Ds are normally spaced across the choir loft as monitors during regular Sunday services; however, for the Christmas Pageant they were assembled into a single curvilinear array to achieve a more tightly defined coverage pattern.

The array configuration, as originally proposed, had called for two M2D-Sub compact subwoofers per side. However, during the demo session, some sightline issues emerged which required substituting a single M3D-Sub directional subwoofer per side in the final installation.

"I was initially concerned about that giving us enough power, because, at the end of some pageant songs, we'll be up around 110dB, with a lot of that being sub-bass information," Fitzgerald points out. "But I'm astonished at the capability of those speakers. It's a warm, full, pleasant bass sound, but there's every bit of power you need. It can rattle the paint if you need it to."

With the M2D system's debut pageant now over, David Fitzgerald looks forward to making the most of the system for Sunday worship and other special events. "I couldn't be more pleased with it," he concludes. "It has all the power we need, and then some. For example, I had it up to 117 dB and I wasn't anywhere near clipping. I have no idea how much headroom we have. But it's great to cruise at around 103 dB and have it sound like you're not even pushing it at all."

December, 2003

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